Germaine Greer Criticizes Frank Gehry And The Sydney Opera House

Whether you love or loathe her, Germaine Greer’s contrarian views on Australian culture act as a vital foil to our fawning local media. I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says but I don’t think she’s being incendiary on purpose and I can appreciate her ability to articulate, in plain language, arguments that are intellectually rigorous. And whether you think those arguments are blasphemous or the ramblings of an elitist expat with too much time on their hands, you have to admire her ability to not give a fuck what anybody thinks, demonstrated most recently in Greer’s new op-ed for The Guardian, Frank Gehry’s new building looks like five scrunched-up brown bags.

But not only does Frank Gehry’s UTS “tree house” design attract Greer’s scorn but, more controversially, Australia’s most iconic landmark, The Sydney Opera House.

Basically, Greer juxtaposes the logistical problems faced in erecting the Sydney Opera House to the comparatively simpler road Gehry Partners now face in Sydney. But before Greer concedes that “history will not be repeated” as “The Gehry partnership has the logistical expertise to get the building up on schedule and within budget” she interjects some well place barbs at what pundits are calling Australia’s new architectural rivalry (it’s not).

On Gehry’s design for UTS’ new business school.

UTS is already responsible for the most brutal buildings in Ultimo; it might now be making a mistake of a different kind. Imagine five brown paper bags with 15 windows cut in each side, scrunched up and then unscrunched and stacked together, and you’ve pretty much got it. The concept is so Frank Gehry that it could almost be self-parody, and that’s before you realise that the pierced, flared and rolled east facade is clad in brick, in pretended hommage to “the dignity of Sydney’s urban brick heritage”.

On The Sydney Opera House.

The Sydney Opera House may be one of the best known structures in the world, but it is also a worse building than anything Gehry would want to put his name to. The original design by Danish architect Jørn Utzon was rejected by the Australian judges in 1956, only to be reinstated…In the 60s, there was no way of making Utzon’s paper nautilus volutes. The roof shells were eventually realised in clunky ceramic tiles. The interior makes a nonsense of the black-opal seascape outside, and the auditoria don’t work. The tinkering goes on. In 1999, Utzon re-designed the reception hall. He died in 2008, without ever having returned to Australia to see the finished building.